The 4th edition of the Rirratjingu Football Program playing NTFL football in Darwin began on Saturday when a contingent of four players travelled west for Round 1 duties. Debutants James Gondarra Burarrwanga, Sid Yunupingu and Luke Maymuru played for Division 1 with talented junior Wanharrawurr 'BJ' Mununggurr playing for the Under 18's after progressing in the Under 14's and 16's for the double blues. With a season of Gove AFL Senior football under his belt, it is expected that Mununggurr will transition into Division 1 before Christmas.
Mununggurr settled well in Under 18's action to be among the Buffaloes best and kicked a fine goal after navigating his way through congestion. Mununggurr was used up forward and also through the ruck. The Under 18's won over a spirited Southern Districts by a handy DB 9.10 64 - 4.7 31 SD margin.
The Division 1 players all showed glimpses that they will quickly adapt to the Darwin style of football. Sid Yunupingu particularly stood out with his clean ball use and ability to move to space. It was Southern Districts who took ascendancy early in the fixture and despite a quality second half from the double blues prevailed SD 12.8 80- 8.7 55 DB. History tells the program that it takes 3-4 games to adapt to NTFL football from Gove AFL and indicators show improvement to come on quickly across the group.
A host of other program players are stayed on the Gove Peninsula in order to play in the Chief Ministers Cup Carnival held at Yirrkala on Saturday. These included Justin Talal, Gapirri Burarrwanga, Gawiya Mununggurr and Shanita Garrawurra.
Program Senior Coach Steven Raymond has the players working hard and has noticed a lift in intensity following the 2 week stand down period and condensed preseason block. He said "The guys and girls are working hard. We still have a good base fitness following Gove AFL, its about getting some sharpness again to excel in Darwin conditions".
The Rirratjingu Football Program is funded through the Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation Culture & Community division. The aim of the Culture & Community area is to provide education sessions and activities and opportunities that enhance and improve the functioning of community life. Football is merely one vehicle that provides opportunities at Yirrkala and the surrounding Gove Peninsula. A number of Yirrkala based education programs have recently begun communication with the C & C team to support future initiatives.
In further news, Program Technical Director Hayden Rickard was joined by Djarrak FC and Darwin Buffaloes Football Club Physio Candice Liddy on the AFL Indigenous Programs Footy Means Business Camp held last week in Cairns. The camp had some intensive football sessions, AFL Sports Ready education sessions delivered by former Essendon and Sydney hard man Derek Kickett and also visited some local sights around Cairns including Mossman Gorge and Fitzroy Island.
"It was an enjoyable experience. Courtney Dempsey shared a training drill used at Essendon so its also an opportunity for our coaching staff to share knowledge as well. He added "I also got to teach the group a small haka, the guys really invested themselves and did a bloody good job".